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Sisters Uncut protest, Old Bailey
Via Instagram/@sistersuncut

Sisters Uncut stage a protest at the sentencing of Sarah Everard’s killer

‘The very details coming from today’s sentencing show us that you cannot separate Wayne Couzens from his role as police officer,’ the activist group tells Dazed, following new revelations about Everard’s abduction

Earlier today (September 29), Sisters Uncut staged a protest outside London’s Old Bailey, where former police officer Wayne Couzens was being sentenced for the murder of Sarah Everard, after pleading guilty back in July.

Displaying banners that called for an end to police violence, the grassroots feminist group — which led the vigil for Everard at Clapham Common back in March — also shared damning statistics about police violence, and called for the halting of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that threatenes to increase police powers and restrict our right to protest.

At the same time, however, horrific new details about the events of the murder were being revealed within the court, including the fact that Couzens used his police warrant card and handcuffs to “arrest” Sarah Everard. Video footage from March 3, when Everard was abducted as she walked home from a friend’s house, shows Couzens (then a serving Metropolitan police officer) staging the false arrest.

According to the hearing, he handcuffed her in the back seat of his car and, as Tom Little QC told the Old Bailey: “That was the start of her lengthy ordeal, including an 80-mile journey (to Kent) whilst detained which was to lead first to her rape and then her murder.”

The court was also told that he may have used COVID lockdown regulations as a pretext to stop Everard, having previously performed police coronavirus patrols. A witness to the start of the abduction, meanwhile, believed that she was seeing an undercover officer arrest a woman, who she assumed “must have done something wrong”.

“We expected the sentencing to take no longer than a few hours, and were shocked at the information that came to light today,” Sisters Uncut tells Dazed in the wake of today’s hearing. “It was alarming, but unfortunately unsurprising that Couzens used his powers as a police officer to legitimise his kidnap of Everard through ‘arresting’ her using COVID regulations. It was alarming, but also unsurprising that the use of this force was unquestioned by witnesses, and we can’t help but wonder — what might have happened if someone had intervened?” 

Sisters Uncut also addresses the claim of a former senior detective, Simon Harding, who played a leading role in the investigation, that: “Police officers do not view Wayne Couzens as a police officer, they view him as a murderer who happened to be a police officer.”

The activist group responds: “We don’t care about whether or not the Met ‘view’ Couzens as a police officer. He was one.”

“The very details coming from today’s sentencing show us that you cannot separate Couzens from his role as police officer. It is the powers given to him as a police officer that allowed him to kidnap, rape, and murder Everard. It is the legitimisation and protection given to the Bully Boys in Blue that mean that no police officer has ever been convicted of murder.”

“We believe that the Met’s attempt to distance themselves from Couzens, and to paint him as ‘just one bad apple’ is a pitiful distraction from the reality, which is that the police are drunk on power and do not keep women safe.”

“You cannot separate Couzens from his role as police officer. It is the powers given to him as a police officer that allowed him to kidnap, rape, and murder Everard” – Sisters Uncut

Supporting this statement during the protest outside the Old Bailey, Sisters Uncut shared statistics about police and violence against women. According to the Femicide Census (via the Times), the group notes, at least 15 women have been killed by police officers in the past 12 years. One woman a week also comes forward to report a serving police officer for domestic or sexual violence, according to research reported by the Guardian, with conviction rates remaining disproportionately low.

“We know that police violence is not a rare occurrence,” adds the group. “The police don’t keep women, or any of us, safe, and they must not be given more powers.”

Sisters Uncut is still working to resist the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, and vows to continue the fight in the streets. It has also announced a new series of Police Intervention trainings, to “give people the skills to intervene when members of their community are being harassed by the police”.

Find more steps you can take toward imagining radical change, courtesy of Sisters Uncut, here, and more organisations to support in the fight against gender-based violence here.